We had the good fortune of connecting with Jen Nation and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jen, how does your business help the community or world
I currently work as the executive director of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center, a nonprofit located in National City who provides organic gardening, environmental stewardship, and nutrition education to kids and families. The nonprofit was founded 10 years ago as Christy Walton donated her former home and seven-acres of property with one condition – that the property is leveraged for community benefit. Our organization is rooted in community and programs have grown and shifted over the years to meet the health and environmental needs of the people who come through our doors. Olivewood is changing lives. Through our programs, people are learning to make simple changes that end up making major differences in their health – for themselves and their families. Kids are advocating in their schools to compost, recycle, and take care of the earth, and parents are fighting for better school lunches and stronger wellness policies. The work we are doing is so important not only for individuals and families but for the entire community.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Olivewood is located in National City and sits on almost 8-acres with a Princess Anne Victorian home. Our mission is to inspire kids and adults to be healthy and active citizens through organic gardening, environmental stewardship, and nutrition education. We do this through hands-on experiential programs in our beautiful indoor/outdoor classroom. In 2010, we launched our Children’s Field Trip program and have served students from National City, the South Bay, and throughout the community ever since. We provide parent education, teacher training, school wellness support, and a robust high school and college internship program in addition to our Cooking for Salud program and high school leadership programs. We’re proud to work with people of all ages and bridge intergenerational gaps. Olivewood is a community-based organization that prides itself on working with residents to drive change, inspire health, and build a strong community. Our long term vision is to see a community free of diet-related health conditions and a thriving environment. When I came to Olivewood I was asked to help build relationships and partnerships to bring resources and opportunities for the participants we serve. The best way to do that, and the way Olivewood has been successful, is to work WITH the community – students, teachers, community leaders, families- to find out what their barriers to health are, and to bridge those gaps. Since March, we’ve been able to shift our programs and offer a weekly donation-based produce stand, serving 70 families weekly *up from 10 pre-Covid). We offer virtual field trips for elementary students, internships for high school students, and classes for our 250 kitchenstias® to connect and engage through nutrition education, mindfulness workshops, fitness classes, recipes exchange, cooking programs, and speakers talking about mental and emotional health as well. You also have videos on our YouTube channel and created a ‘Day of Play’ guide for families. We have offered virtual cooking classes for adults and gardening tips and tools as well. I’m incredibly proud of our team for shifting and pivoting so quickly to meet the demands of our constituents and keeping the entire community engaged through health and nutrition.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Growing up in the midwest, my favorite time of year was spring/summer when you could drive down the road and purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers from the back of their trucks. I’ve lived in San Diego for 13 years, and never get tired of the year-round farmer’s markets. I live in the Normal Heights neighborhood and enjoy the walkability of the area. When people visit we head to Pappalecco in Kensington for coffee, Blind Lady Ale House for their amazing pizza, and Mariposa Ice Cream for a treat! Then, it’s on to the beaches (Windansea is my favorite), or the bay to kayak. My partner enjoys showing off the murals in Chicano Park, and no trip is complete without a visit to Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center to say hi to the chickens. Other favorite places are Cucina Sorrela, Bleu Boheme, and Kensington Brewery. A trip to Balboa Park and Torrey Pines is a must as well. There is always way more to see than there is time.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
When I think about support, it’s really hard not to immediately think of the community of people at Olivewood Gardens. I’m extremely grateful to be surrounded by kind, generous, thoughtful, and creative individuals who care about health equity and environmental justice. The staff team is the most hard-working and thoughtful group of people I’ve met, and their commitment to ensuring a more equitable food system is second to none. Throughout my career, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have strong female (and some male) mentors who have guided, coached, and uplifted me to be the best version of myself. Some have years of experience, and others are just getting started, but they came into my life for a reason and for that I am grateful.

Website: www.olivewoodgardens.org
Instagram: /olivewoodgardens
Linkedin: Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center
Facebook: Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center
Youtube: Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center

Image Credits
M.A. Beyster

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